I lived in Roanoke, VA on and off for about 5 years and honestly have to say that Roanoke was never a great city however over the past few years it really has taken a turn in the better direction!
The new re-designed downtown Roanoke, while still small, is very spiffy and modern. They have a central farmers market with city blocks that seem to be configured outward from the central market. Visitors will notice gorgeous buildings and store fronts that line the streets on both sides and many excellent restaurants and cafes. The new Roanoke has a very modern feel which makes it quite a pleasure to visit.
Roanoke has two different malls both which offer comfortable shopping. In addition there are tons of local storefronts which offer a wide range of specialty and designer clothes and items. Nightlife in Roanoke is moderate and there are several bars and clubs including a friendly gay bar. Outside of the main city area Roanoke does not have much to offer. For those considering moving, Roanoke does have a great job atmosphere focusing mostly on Call Center and Tech Jobs. There are also plenty of apartments and houses for rent in the area.